Summer Of 99--harvesting The Crops
Tours of Earthbound Farms help reconnect people with their roots.
Thursday, May 27, 1999
As you drive down Carmel Valley Road, you pass many fields of green, but at the Earthbound Farmstand, there''s a special summer tour you won''t want to miss.
For those who''ve never had a chance to experience a farm, grow vegetables or help in a harvest--as California pioneers may have done 150 years ago--the bi-monthly Harvest Walks led by farm manager Mark Marino are great opportunities to get your hands in the dirt and learn where your food comes from.
Marino eagerly greets the Harvest Walk groups, limited to 20 people each morning, at the farmstand and gives a brief introduction to farm life and organic farming specifically. Everyone is then armed with a basket and pruning clippers. You can bring gloves if you want but it''s also fun to get your hands right in the moist earth as you pick your bounty. The group heads off for rows of lettuce directly behind the produce store. Don''t be surprised if you''re joined by the friendly, black and white farm cat, Belinda.
After pointing out several varieties of lettuce and giving a demonstration on how to cut them, Marino invites everyone to harvest a head of two. There''s much more to come so don''t load your basket down now, unless you need to make a really big salad. Marino explains how the farm is organized, watered and fertilized as you move on to rows of other green leafy vegetables.
"Anything I notice as we''re walking that might be on a farm," says Marino, "such as ladybugs or plants you don''t normally see, I''ll just show people." It''s this hands-on experience that makes you realize the tomato you eat comes from dirt, not just a supermarket shelf.
Not all the produce on the tour is cut with clippers. Things such as sugar snap peas and carrots must be picked or pulled by hand, which Marino will help with if necessary. The pungent smell of carrots fresh out of the ground is delicious.
"Some folks just go crazy when they come out," says Marino, "especially the kids. We have fun, and I feel good that they''re learning about good food."
Depending on the week of the summer, different crops are ready for harvest. Corn, potatoes and garlic will all be ready later, and different flowers are ready to be picked at various times. One of the most popular beds on the tour, Marino says, is the raspberries. It is also in the berry patch where people begin to understand how much work goes in to harvesting. "Each little berry must be found by hand and that takes time. That''s generally why berries are expensive," says Marino. "They''re more labor intensive for workers."
Earthbound''s flowers also go straight into the basket, counted in to the $10 tour admission. It''s a bargain deal for the amount of color, greenery and nutrition that can be gathered, coupled with the fun of being outside in a farm field on a dewy morning. Call for reservations, the Harvest Walks often sell-out.
Earthbound Farms, 7250 Carmel Valley Rd., Carmel Valley. 625-6219.